Steve Hale is impressed at the mix and quality of props in New Zealand’s Super Rugby Pacific squads for 2022, but there is pressure on some All Blacks to perform. (Pages 28-30)
Pleasing player retention, consistency of selection and quality of performance means only four rookie props have forced their way into New Zealand’s Super Rugby Pacific squads for 2022.
The standard of competition has been so high that outstanding rookie Waikato tighthead George Dyer (who spent time with the Blues this season) finds himself without a fulltime Super contract.
With first choice All Blacks Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala both experiencing punishing international seasons, expect coaches to rotate their propping options shrewdly in the early rounds of the competition to allow tired All Blacks valuable time to recover and rebuild.
There should be a real emphasis on developing athletic props who can not only scrum for penalties, but get themselves into positions to carry the ball strongly and complete dominant tackles as the All Blacks search for our equivalent of Tadhg Furlong.
If the successful blueprint provided by South African and European nations is to be adopted, then our starting props should be used to muscle up powerfully for 40 minutes as opposed to being 60 minute grafters. It will be fascinating to see if the All Blacks selectors replicate the Springboks in replacing their entire starting front-row even before the halftime hooter has sounded.
A noticeable feature of the new wave of New Zealand props is their physical stature. Rookies Saula Ma’u, Pasilio Tosi and the highly promising second year Crusader Tamaiti Williams all hit the scales in excess of the 140kg mark, while 10 of our props stand 1.90m or taller.
Continue this story in our December 2021 – January 2022 issue.